FAQ: NeedleReads

What is NeedleReads?
The Madison Public Library has hosted a monthly sewing class for teens and adults since 2009. Each month (usually on the last Monday evening of each month at 7:00, but check our online calendar for occasional exceptions), a quick, simple project is chosen from one of the many recently published sewing books and participants have the opportunity to create that project from start-to-finish.  The library provides all tools and materials necessary, but you are welcome to bring along your own material if you have some you like, or your own machine if you have one that's portable (we'll even teach you how to use it if you don't know how!).

Why teach sewing and craft classes at the library?
Libraries have always had a reputation for being places of learning. Traditionally, the books housed in libraries have been perceived as the library's main purpose, and indeed books are a great way to learn. However, in today's increasingly digital world, it is important to remind the public that valuable learning also takes place outside of books and libraries are a great source of person-to-person learning experiences. The learning that takes place in libraries is what keeps this institution relevant in a world where access to books is changing rapidly.

I can't afford to buy brand new sewing machines on my library's budget. Can I still try this class?
Absolutely! First, ask members of your staff or library community if anyone has a sewing machine they would like to lend or donate to your program. Perhaps someone has an old, unused machine that simply needs a tune-up. If that method proves unfruitful, check Craigslist, Ebay, thrift stores and yard sales for possible options. Or perhaps for the first month or two you could bring your own sewing machine in for the class to use. Once you've established the program as successful and popular at your library, you might consider asking your Friends of the Library (or other benefactor) to purchase a new machine for the class to use. You could also invite participants to bring their own sewing machines to class if they want to. For some of them, this is an excellent opportunity to drag an unused sewing machine out of a closet and use it for the first time in a long time (or ever!) and many of them are grateful for the opportunity to learn how to use their own machines.

Where can I get the fabric and other materials?
Donations! If you solicit donations from your community, you will likely find someone who has a stash they're willing to part with. Other good sources include thrift stores (either cloth or clothing & linens for "recycled" material projects). However, if you have need a specific material for a certain project (oilcloth, polar fleece, zippers, etc.) buy those supplies new. Jo-Ann Fabrics often has excellent coupons available.

Should I limit attendance/require pre-registration? How many participants do you recommend?
It all depends on the size of your room, how many sewing machines you were able to procure, and your comfort level with helping multiple people at one time. Class size at the Madison Public Library usually ranges between 2 to 10 participants and it runs most smoothly with no more than 6 participants and at least two sewing machines. No registration is required (to remove a possible barrier to participation), but that occasionally leads to no-show classes or a line at the sewing machines.

Do I have to use the NeedleReads title?
If you like the NeedleReads title, feel free to use it for your own program, but you are under no obligation to use that title if you have a different name you like better.

If you have further questions, feel free to e-mail me at: cchristner{at}madisonpubliclibrary.org

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